What to do with AfD?

AfD can celebrate with a great result in the East Germany and many previously non-voters on its side. No doubt the AfD will be a loud voice in the Bundestag. So how to deal with the AfD? To ostracize them? Talk to them? Something in between? Read few comments.

Eric Langenbacher, Teaching Professor, Department of Government , Georgetown University

How to best deal with the AfD is the big question. I’m not really sure what the best approach is–both ostracism and engagement have worked and failed in various contexts. Perhaps a combination of both. But, I will say that the media has a more important role to play in not reporting or exaggerating every silly thing that comes of out these politicians’ mouths–like this call last night to investigate the legality of Merkel’s refugee policy decision. That needs to be ignored.

Emily MansfieldAnalyst, Europe, The Economist Intelligence Unit

The AfD will certainly be a loud voice in the Bundestag, and will aim to bring more conflict and debate into discussions. It will struggle to overcome its own internal divisions, however — it is far from a coherent entity, with major differences of opinion between radicals and moderates, and is likely to see extensive infighting. The other parties are likely to react primarily by ostracising them, but will be forced to debate the issues they raise. Too harsh a position taken against the AfD in the Bundestag could worsen East-West strains in Germany, as the far-right party did particularly well in the East.

Paul Hockenos, Writer, Political Analyst

There’s not one strategy to deal with the AfD. But maybe it will force the democratic parties to make the better arguments. They didn’t do this in the campaign, they ignored immigration and EU reform, giving the AfD an open field. And the AfD ran with the ball. So that’s how not to do it.

Ed TurnerLecturer in Politics and International Relations, Aston University

The legal position of the AfD is secured – they will have well-resourced parliamentarians, a large number of staff members, their own political education foundation, as well as the usual state funding of parties post-election.  If the experience with them in state parliaments is anything to go by, they are unlikely to engage much with the detail of legislation in committees and so on, and will instead try to cause mini-scandals and offer provocations on issues around migration and refugees.  I would not expect other parties to engage with them very much – there is clearly a debate about how much to dignify their provocations with a response.

Julian Göpffarth, PhD Candidate, European Institute, London School of Economics and Political Science

Finding an answer to this question is extremely difficult simply because the AfD and its supporters are made up of a relatively diverse population. In my view it will be necessary to clearly speak out against any racist and extremist voices in the party. There should be clear boundaries in the democratic debate. At the same time, not every comment of the AfD should be scandalized, as that would mean further publicity for the party. This balancing act should happen without giving the more moderate parts of the electorate the feeling that the AfD is stigmatized as a whole in order to exclude them from the democratic debate. Therefore, the other parties should try to tackle the issues that are close to heart of the AfD’s more moderate supporters who voted for the AfD not out of conviction but rather to protest against the policies of the other parties. After all, polls have shown that only 34% voted for AfD out of conviction while a large majority of 60% of the AfD voters said their vote for the AfD was a vote against the other parties. This means then that if they feel that one of the other parties deals with their problems, they are likely not to support the AfD in the future. In sum, my proposition would be to find a way to ostracize them when the boundaries of a democratic debate are not respected, to ignore attempts to create scandals that the party creates simply to gain attention and to create a dialogue with the moderate forces and those who support the party out of protest, not conviction.

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